Friday, 23 March 2012

Southern Health Trust - Preferential Treatment to Autism NI Charity?

Update 26 March 2012 

The SHSCT referred to in this blog entry has been amended. SHSCT has removed the link to Autism NI and replaced it with

The link to the webpage regarding Autism Services in the Southern Trust area is: .

On perusing the SHSCT (Southern Health and Social Care Trust) website,  I came across their 'autism specialist intervention service' page. It all looked interesting. I read the whole page but when I came to the end of the page, I noticed that this Trust provides only one external weblink  regarding autism. That link is to the organisation 'AutismNI'.

I would like to say to the other 9 or more voluntaries and charities in Northern Ireland that work with autism related issues,  please contact the Southern Trust and advise them of their oversight. You are not receiving equitable publicity.

Why are children and families in the Southern Area being formally advised via an official Health Trust website, to go to just ONE charity. Out of all the links in the world, why is AutismNI the only external link on the page?

If you live in the following areas, you are in the Southern Area Trust:
Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Dungannon, Newry & Mourne.

AutismNI is a company. Its sells many of its services, it requires that 'members' pay a membership fee, it also has a need to feed itself and this is done via membership fees, fundraising by families, etc. How much money would AutismNI receive from the hundreds of potential families being fed to it via this website? Who made the decision in the Southern Trust to give preferential treatment to this organisation? AutismNI had £400,000 (approx) in its coffers last year. Why were they selected by the Southern Trust as the only voluntary organisation to have its link on their website regarding autism? Was it because they are the 'richest' and by implication, the best?  (AutismNI touts its 20 year history as something to celebrate.
20 years of ineptitude, incalcitrance, mediocrity? )

The real question is what is AutismNI offering anyone in the Southern Area Trust? If you refer to AutismNI's own website they have minimal if any training going on, none of which is in the Southern area. Most of their 'training' you have to pay for and it looks like Trusts in general, are no longer funding the organisation, preferring their own in-house trainers and services.  A cursory look at the AutismNI website indicates not much is happening with this organisation at all except fundraising and hiring more fundraisers! 

It's all smoke and mirrors. If you live in the Southern Trust area and you have a newly diagnosed child where do you turn for help then? What information and support do you need?

SEN and Statementing help
DLA/carer's assessments advice
Access to the latest autism intervention strategies
Advice on schools
Diet/Nutrition/Health advice
Socialisation/Play/Communication opportunities?
Parent training in advocacy, understanding the Health and Education Systems?
Understanding the Implication of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) Review and what to do about it?

If you are a family requiring help with the above list, there are organisations all over Northern Ireland working in different areas providing help in these matters. Some of them are :

PEAT (Parent Educators as Autism Therapists)
ANNI  (Autism Network NI)
NAS  (National Autistic Society)
Autism Initiatives
Barnardos (Forward Steps Programs)
Contact a Family
Children's Law Centre

If you organise a charity, working with persons who have autism in the Southern Trust, you will now know why families, new to the diagnosis of autism, are not contacting you, they are potentially contacting only AutismNI because that is the only organisation that is being given publicity by the Trust's autism service. Shocking and totally unethical.

Nice cosy relationship between the Trust and Autism NI?  Quid pro quo relationship? What benefits are being enjoyed by each party in this twosome?

(by the way, Southern Trust, the webpage in question does not divulge the name or contact details of the Autism Coordinator for the area) These details should be on the website. I also note, that typing in 'autism' into the search facility of the main website page comes up with nothing. So, all in all, at least in my opinion, I find the 'autism specialist invervention service' page wanting and needing a complete overhaul.

For anyone who lives in the Southern Trust area, your Autism Coordinator is:

Lesley Waugh
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Co-Ordinator (Southern Trust)
11-17 Russell Drive, Lurgan
BT66 8HD
028 3831 2801

Contact Lesley if you, as a parent/carer are not happy with the service or provision your child is receiving from the Health Trust (eg. waiting times, SLT/OT/Carer's Assessments, Social Workers, etc)

 Lesley Waugh is the overall co-ordinator for autism services and provision in this area and is there to iron out your problems.

1 comment:

minervabradley said...

Strange as it may seem, I live in another Trust area & most of my friends think the services offered by SHSCT look good in comparison- which sort of indicates how dire it is for us up North. My child received a diagnosis before the new pathway came into use so with an 'historic' diagnosis, we would get nothing. Not much change there then.However, a number of parents of newly diagnosed kids have said they received nothing either, except the option of a one-off 'autism awareness' session- which surely is a breach of the new pathway guidelines and we should be asking where did all the autism specific money actually go? Incidentally, the 'autism awareness training' that people are offered instead of a service is-I am told- jointly presented by an Autism NI worker who has a contract with our Trust. I have no idea what such training involves (I'm guessing TEACCH might be mentioned,maybe a 'wee support group', but it is only only guessing- I'm not entitled to this awareness training, though how much more 'aware' we could be now is debateable), but however good it might be it is no substitute for practical, evidence based intervention. I'd be delighted if someone from our area writes to say they have had great support, but not holding my breath.